The Buccaneers have two new starting safeties in 2012, though the word “new” applies to each player in a different way. Mark Barron is new, period, a rookie first-rounder getting his first exposure to the NFL. Ronde Barber has seen virtually everything the NFL has to offer over 16 seasons, and is really only new to playing free safety on an every-down basis.
It’s an unusual tandem, and it’s working. The Bucs had the steady but unspectacular Sean Jones at strong safety the last two years and a revolving door at free safety due largely to injuries. Now Barber brings a wealth of experience and big-play tendencies and Barron gives the franchise it’s hardest hitter in centerfield since the days of John Lynch.
On Sunday, in the Buccaneers’ 38-10 rout of the Kansas City Chiefs, the mentor and his young charge snared interceptions in the same game for the very first time. It was the 45th pick in Barber’s illustrious career; at this point, he’s just padding his team record in that category. It was Barron’s first interception as a pro.
It was also the kind of playmaking the Bucs want to see out of the deepest level of their defense. This marked the first time in nearly two years (since December 5, 2010) that both of the Bucs’ starting safeties recorded an interception in the same game. The figures in that 2010 game against the Falcons were Jones and Corey Lynch, who was only making a spot start due to other injuries.
How long this particular safety combination lasts for the Buccaneers will depend on how much longer Barber chooses to extend his remarkable career. However, Barber believes his young partner, who on Tuesday was nominated for NFL Rookie of the Week, will be making an impact in a Buccaneers uniform for a long time.
“Mark is great,” Barber told the NFL AM show on NFL Network on Tuesday morning. “He’s very unassuming, but when Sunday comes around he puts his body on people. I know I’ve said this a thousand times, but the guy hits people hard and he doesn’t even know that he’s hitting them hard. He’s just that kind of a player. But he has great instincts. He’s going to be one of the great ones, I think. It’s fun for me to be able to see a young guy already being able to make an impact on our team, and know that in the future he’s going to be well-respected across the league.”